“Taxpayers fund us, so we want to
make sure we are implementing
solutions that our constituents
can truly use day to day.”
describe as being well below
what you expected. How do
you begin to tackle that as an
Tomlinson: It’s a tough path.
The first thing we did was a very
accurate, very detailed deep dive
into the infrastructure—into the
belly of the city—to see where
the vulnerabilities and the holes were, identify opportunities
for us to bolster the infrastructure, and insert technology to
We went to various city agencies and business units to learn
about their business. We visited all 60 agencies in the city to
learn what they do and how their infrastructure works, and
to understand their dependencies on the city’s core datacenter
and core systems. So, the first thing I did was understand the
business—understand the lay of the land.
One of the things we’re working on now is relocating from
our old datacenter. This is a huge culture shift and a departure
from the norm for the city. So, the first task was to relocate our
data—our core, the heart of the city—and move that into a
structurally sound, secure, highly rated datacenter facility.
That’s a huge feat. Any organization will attest that it’s kind
of like a heart transplant.
PROFIT: Is it important for you to understand the end user,
whether it’s a citizen or a city employee?
Tomlinson: Absolutely. I think for many technologists, we
only think about the technical feasibility of what we’re implementing. We often struggle to grasp how viable a solution is
for the customer or the user. We’re only considering whether a
project is a very good technical thing to do.
The mind shift we had to take here at the Department of
Technology for the city was to not implement technology just
for the sake of implementing technology. For several reasons,
we really needed to touch the business—talk to the business.
The primary reason for this is that the taxpayers fund us, so
we want to make sure we are implementing solutions that our
constituents can truly use day to day.
There is no glory in implementing
technology no one uses.
PROFIT: How does centralizing IT help
the city and citizens of San Francisco?
Tomlinson: As an example, right
now we are working with an Oracle
solution for our criminal justice system
here in the city. Currently, there are
several disparate criminal justice
systems. There’s the San Francisco
Police Department, the sheriff’s office,
the district attorney’s office, emergency
management offices, and so forth.
They each have systems and
data sets that they use to do
their day-to-day work.
Right now, with the dis-
parate systems, it can be a
challenge to understand if an
offender has a case somewhere
in the sheriff’s department or
has a case somewhere in the
public defender’s. That information isn’t as readily available
across the board as it should be.
We’re really combining all the data sets from those criminal
justice areas and pulling them into an Oracle back end, so each
of those criminal justice agencies can have the same accurate,
updated information. So if an offender has multiple offenses,
that information is readily available to all criminal justice sites
and agencies, as needed.
It’s a huge opportunity for us to leverage Oracle in a very
customer-facing way, ensuring for the citizens of the City and
County of San Francisco that if an offender is arrested or has
an interaction with any of our criminal justice agencies, each
agency has an appropriate awareness of that offender. Our plan
is to have this system officially up and running by 2012.
PROFIT: The data sets you are working with must be quite large.
Tomlinson: Yes, lots of data! For example, we have Oracle
implementations at our Metropolitan Transportation Authority
[MTA]. They’re using Oracle as a back-end data warehouse for
a lot of the parking and metering data from the smart meters
around the city. The parking meters are one of the biggest
revenue points for the MTA.
That data warehousing back end at the MTA allows the
department to leverage the entire business intelligence suite of
tools that Oracle provides to do dashboards, trend analysis, and
other data mining. Also, they can export that data into other
tools—other MTA business systems and systems that could be
used in other areas of the city.
We also have an initiative called DataSF that mirrors the
Obama administration’s OpenGov initiative of open govern-
ment and access to data. We literally
peel the lid off, so to speak, of many
data systems and data sets in the city
that are deemed most of interest to
the citizens: for example, bus sched-
ule information, library information,
city hall information. Citizens are
able to download the data sets, and
we’ve found that they are being inno-
vative and creating all kinds of apps
for the Android smartphones and the
iPhone. They’re using that to develop
their own systems and applications,
do their own development, and later
—Gina Tomlinson, CTO, City and County of San Francisco
The City and County of san Francisco
Headquarters: San Francisco, California
industry: Public sector
Gina Tomlinson, Chief Technology
length of tenure: 1 year
Education: BS in computer science
Personal quote: “Stay true to yourself,
and all else will take care of itself!”